Digestive System Simulation
Teacher Instructions
Objective: Students will understand the different roles of the organs in the digestive system by acting as those organs in a simulation.
Preparation:
Fill 2 large garbage bags with crumpled paper. Add wrapped pieces of candy (M&Ms bags, starburst, any wrapped candy, etc.) into the bag and shake to mix well. Tie the bags closed.
Procedure:

  1. Assign each student one of the following roles: mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, small intestine, blood, gall bladder, large intestine, rectum, and anus. Be sure to talk to the students chosen as rectum and anus before assigning the roles. They may need the warning. You will likely have several students in the same role from mouth to large intestine.
  2. Give each student a note card with a string attached to make a necklace and have them write their roles on the front of the note card. On the back of the cards, students need to write a brief description of what their organs do in the digestion process. For example, the small intestine takes out most of the good stuff and passes it to the blood, then passes the leftovers to the large intestine. When the back of the card is complete, have students put the cards on.
  3. Ask students to align themselves in order from mouth to anus in a large line in the classroom. Encourage them to work as a group to determine the correct order of organs. When they have decided on the order, double check that they are right.
  4. Hand the prepared garbage bag to the mouth. Tell the students this is a model of a piece of food and they need to do the jobs of their assigned organs to pass the food through the digestive system.
  5. Let them begin the simulation. Step back and enjoy. Resist the temptation to jump in and correct them.
  6. When finished, ask for feedback. Did anyone confuse their jobs with someone else? Did anyone notice an organ acting inappropriately? This is the chance to clear up misconceptions before trying again.
  7. For a second round, have the students change roles. Again, be sure those at the wrong end are comfortable with their roles. Repeat simulation.
Wrap - up:
At their desks, ask students to write about the experience by answering the following questions:
1. What did you learn about the organs you simulated in this activity?
2. What did you learn about the other organs?
3. What do you remember most from this exercise?
4. If you could change something about this activity, what would it be?
5. Create and fill in a table like the one below:
Organ What happened with this organ in the simulation?
What is the actual function of the organ in digestion?
Mouth
Esophagus
Stomach
Pancreas
Small Intestine
Blood
Large Intestine
Gall Bladder
Rectum
Anus
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